tv Inside Story Al Jazeera April 17, 2014 3:30am-4:01am EDT
>> you can find out more about the mustang as it turns 50 on the al jazeera website. there's lots more as well. aljazeera.com. >> new york's police had a special detail that kept an eye on the city's muslim communities trying to foil the next terrorist attacks faced with complaints and controversy the city has dropped the policy. it's the inside story. >> hello, i'm ray suarez.
in 1993 and then again in 2001 muslim immigrants to the united states attacked the world trade center in lower manhattan. after the 2001 attack brought down two of the world's tallest buildings killing thousands and sending the u.s. to war, new york's police department began closer developments of the large immigrant communities. the still young administration of mayor bill de blasio and william brattan ended the program this week. on this edition of the program, whether the policy worked, when and whether it should be permissible, and whether it's practices should run no the notion of profiling, collective guilt and probabl probable caus. the assessment unit has been disbanded after spending a decade covertly monitoring muslim communities, subject to
lawsuits and mounting public criticism, it was closed down by william brattan. in a statement tuesday the department said, understanding certain local demographics can be an useful practicer when assessing information regarding potential threats coming to the attention of the new york city police department. it has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the zone assessment unit may be obtained through direct outreach by the nypd to the communities concerned. the secret program created by a c.i.a. officer in 2003 sent plains clothes police officers to eavesdrop. the idea was to stop potential terrorists. in 2011 the associated press revealed the program stirring waves of resentment and suspension throughout the community, and why the commissioner at the time raymond kelly defended the practices.
>> he continued to do the things that he believed we have to do to protect new york city. certainly the number one terrorist target in this country. >> reporter: undercover cops would befriend muslims and start conversations with them, noting their feelings about america and u.s. foreign policy all while they ate, shopped, and prayed. >> we wouldn't be praying for the soul of america. we feel so much harm and so much suspicion has been taking place. now we find out that our law enforcement at the highest level is considering our community a suspect. more importantly they're attacking the most important thing we believe in, that is our faith. >> very cute to go in and blame everybody and say we should stay away from anything that smacks of intelligence gathering. the job of law enforcement is to make sure that they prevent things. >> the information collected never generated a lead. after the
september 11, 2001, attacks, they upped their perhaps, and entered with government spy agencies, raising questions about who protects our cities and what methods could be used. >> dozen gathering intellectual intelligence in the streets and mosques the end of the policing tool? forced by politics or simply a response to a program that wasn't working, that's the inside story. joining us for an assessment of the nypd program in the broader issues it raised in decades, and questions now that it's gone,
our guests. linda, let me start with you. you got what you wanted. you had complained with this program, but we also heard mayor bloomberg and former commissioner kelly making what sounded on their face reasonable defenses of the program. why did you feel it had to go? >> the unit should never have been there in the first place. as you stated in the opening set up, this you want never generated any leads. so for since 2003 up to 2012, we got no lead. none of the information gathered was helpful in our counter terrorism efforts and blatant discrimination fewing and targeting specific people based on religious and national origin. we know that there are laws that protect inchers
new yorkers and americans from racial profiling. >> was this worthwhile? >> i think so. this was a driven attempt to undermine counterterrorism operations. >> but if it didn't work? >> who said it didn't work. >> well, the police said it didn't work. the police have said there was nothing that they got through doing this kind of surveillance that they couldn't have gotten through overt means that did not penetrate these communities. >> the only people i've heard making that statement are not members of the nypd and don't have the intelligence clearance. the idea that you have to have a concrete prosecution. 16 of the 19 al-qaeda plots diverted since september 11th have targeted new york. this kind of covert unit is not simply about gathering information for prosecution. it's about feeding intelligence to prevent attacks.
so whethe when someone makes a statement about not making a prosecution. that's irrelevant. good police something understanding your community. this is not targeting communities. this is targeting people in those communities who exploit them and use them as cover. we know al-qaeda uses mosques. it uses cultural centers from the shoe bomber, to the head of al-qaeda iny men, these individuals have always used the cover of community institutions to plot their attacks. to deny this is absurdity. >> linda, i'll come back to you. jamie, does there have to be some probable cause for this not to be profiling? >> no, probable cause comes in to play when you make an arrest. the police and law enforcement community credit weather it be local, state or federal can do this kind of investigation legally without probable cause, and even without reasonable suspicion.
there is an interesting tension here that each of your guests raises between liberty on the one hand, and security on the other. and it is true that this led to no leads, but it is also true that we really don't know because this was a secret program. what it may have led to behind the scenes. it is true that the police said it led to no leads, but there is always that dubious question of what might had happened had this program not been in place. this is the same argument that we've always heard from presidential administrations, from bush to obama, well, we've not had any terrorist attacks since 9/11 because of our stepped up post patriot act security. that's the question for the american people. how much liberty do we want to give up in the name of security. that includes places of worship like mosques.
>> wouldn't we have known if evidence had developed through this method of investigation through trials, through evidence being introduced, through police sources testifying in open court that these were pieces of evidence that they generated using these investigative methods? >> absolutely. had they led to a prosecution. but we can't prove the negative, the things that may have led to investigations that we know nothing about. that's of course what one of your guests is pointing out. your think tank guest, that we simply don't know--you know, it's that dubious argument, we don't know what would have been but for this investigation unit. it becomes a very theoretical discussion about our constitutional rights rather than a concrete argument about what was and was not proven because of this investigation's unit. the demographics unit, by the
way, ray, what it was originally called before the public relations backlash tt came out of it. >> linda, you were wanted to jump in. >> i wanted to say that this program was looking at a needle in the haystack. if we want to talk about security, what this program did is it alienated and targeted the muslim community. if the police want leads and tips, they need to build trust within the community. this program was monitoring 800,000 muslims in new york. in the kansas city we had a violent man who with you knee about, who we knew had this violent res rick. here we have three people did because we didn't follow thinks leads. did we infiltrate his church? did we drink at the bars that he drank at? terrorism in this country equals muslim and islam. let's follow the leads and go
where interest is criminal activities. let's go to the boston bombing. we had leads? did we follow those leads? this is effective law enforcement. when there are leads you follow them. right now spying on innocent new yorkers, on muslim students on campuses, business owners, worshipers at mosque is not the way to find the bad guy. >> jamie, i know you're dying to get in. hold that thought. we have to go to break. when we return we'll talk about whether there were other ways, other tools to gain some of the same information that was used--that was gained by this unit. stay with us. >> what excites me about detroit is the feeling of possibility... >> the re-birth of an america city >> we're looking at what every city can learn from detroit, >> the industrial revival
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a ten year attempt to develop leads. it never did develop leads to pursue. linda. >> yes, i wanted to be clear, and i'm sure this is not what linda intended to suggest. when we talk about these other cases like boston bombing and the shooting in kansas. we don't want to infiltrate those communities either unless there is reason to suspect there is terrorist activities in those communities. i think its important, ray, that the american public understand that the patriot act passed post september 11th would allow law enforcement to have these expansive rights, and that is legal. that is the law. that is the choice that the american people have made. if there is concerned about what nypd has been doing then they need to go back and reflect on lawsuit in this country.
it's not local police, ray. it is state and federal police who have this expanded right to look into not just what you're doing in your mosque, in your financial records, but in most areas of your private life, wiretapping, etc. we can talk more about that if you like. >> sebastian, in the aftermath of the september 11, 2001, attacks, we threw every tool in the shed, and in some places agents of the united states government and local law enforcement approached congregational leaders and told them what they were doing. we want to know what's going on in this community. is there anything you know, try to develop them as sources and in some similar cases in other places in the country, they instead went in quietly, didn't announce their presence, and became in effect spies on congregations. the community reacted very negatively to one method.
and very positively to the other. but the information generated isn't that different, is it? >> it's not a binary question. it's not either/or. you don't just do nypd soccer leagues or undercover work. good intelligence gathering does both. if you're trying to break up the mafia, you don't just have outream with the italian community. you infiltrate the cos anofst ra are criminals. >> yes . >> it's not undercovering criminal conspiracy but looking for something that is not there. >> but to surveil 800,000 muslims in new york is absurd.
you're going into that community to identify suspects, to see trends that are indicative of terrorist actions. let's apply common sense here. what was osama bin laden? muslim. what about the head of al-qaeda today. muslim. hasan major nadal hasan was also a muslim or said he was. do we think that they hinge out in hindu or catholic community centers? no. they hang out in mosques. the shoe bomber frequented the mosque before he was classified as an operative al-qaeda. rewe really saying that thenal should be going into jewish temples to find terroris muslim terrorist?
this is a bad joke, this is a bad "snl" skit. let's let them do their jobs finding where there are hidden terrorist cells or hidden al-qaeda cells. >> linda, how do you respond to that? >> he has not looked at this. yes, they were spying across new york city and even into places like new jersey. they have labels imams in our community radical and dangerous. they have mapped entire neighborhoods, businesses, you know, cafes, grocery store. this is not about following that one person. when we talk about the foiled plot that the new york police department supposedly foiled there were questions about those plots. where the fbi was quoted in the newspaper saying we did not engage on that case because the
nypd informant was, quote, too involved. thank you for clarifying my earlier remark. as a muslim from a community targeted would never propose that we infiltrate entire christian or jewish communities. i'm trying to point out policing should be. we knew that fraser was a white supremacist and if we had been following his rhetoric we may have been able to stop a very tragic incident from happening. i'm saying following the leads when you suspect criminal activity like the mafia, you already know that criminal activity is there. but innocent peep worshiping at a mosque or young children at an islamic school or people like me providing human services, we are not the target. we are the partners in insuring that our city is safe. if the new york police department is going to operate
under the assumption that we will not provide information, that we will not keep our community safe, then that should be something that should be outrageous to all people. we need to see our communities as partners just like every other community. we are partner in the fight of terror. we're not culprits in the matter which is how a nypd ray kelly treated our community. >> there is the letter of law, and then there is policy that, things that you're allowed to do, but you may not want to do it in every case because they may do as much harm as good. it's understandable that the police went into these communities in the way that they did in the months and years after the 9/11 attacks. >> well, it's the role of courts to marry good law and good policy. in law school we take courses on law and public policy. often, ray, they don't line up.
that's where the courts especially the u.s. supreme court is supposed to step in. linda mentioned education. the u.s. supreme court has actually said that students cannot sue the university, muslim students in particular cannot sue their universities for having been spied on in the university setting by law enforcement post 9/11. there is a question of what policy should be as opposed to what makes good law. you're asking a very difficult question because nypd is clearly decided a decade later that this policy does not make good sense for all of the reasons linda is suggesting, and for all of the reasons that our other guest , sebastian says is nonsense. we have opposing policies from the kelly
regime, our own police commissioner, to the brattan regime. but the interesting thing, ray, there is nothing legally that has changed. no court came in and said that the law has been violated by this police policy. in fact, there has been two lawsuits filed, but a federal judge in new jersey in one of those cases said that the case was ruled in favor essentially of the police department. that's on appeal, but this is not about the law, what has happened here. this is about public policy, a new police commissioner and new mayor saying this has not worked as a matter of public policy. legally the law supports this. if people don't like it, they need to change the law. >> it's interesting in that court case that you cite, the federal judge said that he wouldn't take their argument because no harm had been done to the community. >> exactly. >> by surveilling it. we're going to take a short break. when we come back we'll talk about what harm is being done,
what harm could be done, and how to watch communities that have been the source of violent criminals in the past. this is inside story. >> results of analyses were skewed in favor of the prosecution >> the fbi can't force the states to look at those cases >> the truth will set you free yeah...don't kid yourself >> the system has failed me
>> welcome back. the terrorist strike on the united states on 9/11 forced the united states to rethink national policy towards bell against gathering. it created the patriot i don't care packet, the department of homeland security and a greater focus on terrorism. there is now better cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement. this week new york city disbanded a police unit that infiltrated muslim communities in search of terror suspects. it was an idea that came out of the c.i.a. still with us linda, executive director of the arab american association of new york. sebastian, professor at the institute of world politics, and al jazeera legal contributor jamie. in the little time we have left i would like to hear from everybody on what to do now.
how to proceed, linda, in a way that's consistent with american values, consistent with the law, but also gives the people who are trying to investigate these plots a shot at finding people before they do this country harm, before they organize the mayhem that in many cases they intended to commit? how do you do it? >> you create meaningful changes within the new york police department. you create agency-wide guidelines followed by all of those who work for the nypd intelligence division. you make it clear how you open an investigation and collect intelligence and make meaningful relationships with muslim-americans and not treat them as suspects. it created paranoia and lack of trust between police and the muslim communities.
i think the nypd or the new nypd has realized that, and has seen the pressure and understood that, and this is why they're hopefully going in the right direction. >> jamie, brattan said that that information can be gotten in other ways that does not involve spying on muslim communities, do you think he's right? >> i think he is right, and i think it is exactly what linda is talking about, although i think sebastian is also correct, we can't kid ourselves. these are difficult questions. it makes you long for the clarity of the world war in some ways because all of this is so murky and so terribly troubling. americans have to dig deep and ask themselves about this fundamental tension between liberty and security, and frankly, ray, it starts with dialogues like this one between people who are seemingly opposed in their fundamental values like sebastian and linda, but ultimately want to come together
around policies that can moves us forward. >> now that the nypd has reput repudiated this policy, what can they move to? what is still in the toolbox that allows them to do the investigative work that they need to do, and still protects the civil liberties of rank and file muslims that go about their business in new york. >> it seems that they've limited themselves for political reasons. to only overt policing which will make new york, i guarantee t a less safe place. we have to have common sense and get politics out of this. it is fascinating on the anniversary of the boston bombing not only is this unit disbanded but we have two america foundation declare right wing extremists are more dangerous thanie jihadists. how many white supremacists have killed 3,000 people on one day? we had al-qaeda operatives in
this country living where? inside muslim communities, going to islamic cultural centers. to say that we cannot gather information from those communities means the nypd will not have adequate covert sources of information to protect new york. this is-- >> ray had a point. >> i'm sorry, we're just about out of time. this is the fundamental disagreement. it will be interesting to see how the nypd proceeds from here. guests, thank you all for being with us today. that brings us to the end of this edition of inside story. thanks for being with us. the program may be over, but the cover continues. we want to hear what you think about the issues of this or any day's show. follow us on facebook. find us on twitter. i'm at a ray suarez news. see you next time. i'm ray suarez.
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